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History of School Cross Country in

Chester le Street

Cross country running has been an annual activity organised for top year primary children for 30 years in the Chester-le-Street district. The district athletics had been well established when, at the annual meeting on 15th November, it was proposed that a cross country event be organised in the following academic year. Four schools, Bullion Lane, Newker, Pelton Roseberry and Sacriston were asked to host the events as the premises in the four schools would provide a 'good enclosed track with a variety of terrain'

The following rules were adopted:

  • Top class children only were allowed to run in accordance with the national cross country rules

  • Boys' and girls' team comprising six runners in each team

  • Length of course to be between a mile and a mile and a half

  • Schools staging the event to make the course as interesting as possible

Bullion Lane were unable to provide a suitable course so, for the first ever set of cross country meetings, the following schools volunteered:

  • Saturday 14th January 1978: Pelton Roseberry - 10.30 am

  • Saturday 11th February: Sacriston - 10.30 am

  • Tuesday 14th March: Barley Mow - 4.30 pm

Although the annual meeting in 1978 recorded that the cross countries had been a success, there was no way that they had gone smoothly. The second meeting at Sacriston was cancelled due to poor weather and, in March, industrial action by teachers prevented a full turn-out at Barley Mow for the final meeting.

The annual meeting in 1980 reported that 15 schools competed. The standard of the competition was high and well enjoyed by pupils, staff and parents. New venues were added, noticeably Langley Park, Newker, Cestria" and Esh Winning. These two schools provided excellent courses, particularly Esh Winning.

The composition of each team altered with a team of four with three counting towards the team score. The reason for this change was that small schools found difficulty finding six in a team from the top year. Many times over the years, the issue of inviting younger pupils to take part was discussed but the recommendation from the English School Cross Country Association that top class pupils only were capable of running the distances required was taken on board.

The association had been asked to provide a team to take part in a triangular meeting with Consett and Stanley and the secretary's report at the annual meeting in 1984 stated the following "I have said for many years that we in Chester-le-Street enjoy a very high standard of competition in our athletics and cross country events. It is often difficult to measure how good the competition is but we were given ample proof this year when we trounced Consett in a cross country meeting at Lamgley Park. It is always heartening to see the number of children who go on to compete in further athletics events. Every week in the local newspaper, there are lists of children who have at one time represented schools in our association and are now performing well for the local harriers"

No cross country races were held in 1986 due to industrial action taken by teachers

Trophies are awarded each year but that is not the most important feature of the cross country events. Children are encouraged to perform to the best of their ability and it is often the runners at the back of the field who receive the greatest accolades. Cross country running is desperately difficult for those who see the better runners disappearing out of sight! Small schools, with little chance of winning, continue to turn up each year. West Pelton is one of these schools but what a great year it was for them in 1987 when they actually won the boy's trophy. A letter written to the association by headteacher Morrison Milburn describes perfectly how they felt: "We're still flushed with success over the cross country result and I'm sure that winning will never become such a frequent occurence that we'll be blase about it. What was especially pleasing about it was the genuine pleasure we seemed to give to so many other schools taking part. It was certainly a case of a minnow behaving like a shark and I hope it gave encouragement to many small schools who, like ourselves, take part regularly in all kinds of sporting activities without much hope of winning. It must be of great satisfaction to you that all the work you put into the organisation of the events results in meetings in which everyone competes in the very best spirit" West Pelton have never won another trophy since but continue to enter a team - surely, that is what it is all about!

Annual meeting: 1989 - a trophy for small schools was introduced resulting in four trophies up for grabs

  • Overall Trophy for Boys

  • Overall Trophy for Girls

  • Small Schools' Trophy for Boys

  • Small Schools' Trophy for Girls

First winners of the Small Schools' Trophies were Witton Gilbert (Girls) Birtley St Joseph's (Boys)

Trophies for the best individual boy and girl runners were introduced. Recognising excellence is important and, over the years, we have seen wonderful individual performances. The winner of the boy's trophy in 1990 was a certain Alan Baker (Newker). Little did we think that the same Mr Baker would lead his Pelton Community and then St. Margaret's teams to success years later as teacher. The enthusiasm he gained from primary school sport played a big part in the enthusiasm he now engenders from his pupils, driving them on to success in a range of sporting activities.

1995 - number of cross country venues reduced to three

2004 - 22 schools took part in the cross country meetings. This was the most we have ever had.

2007 was a sad year in the history of the association. Woodlea headteacher, Mr Peter Robinson, lost his fight for life after a long illness. Peter was a great supporter of the athletics association and will be greatly missed. In honour of his memory, a trophy has been introduced for the overall winner when the boys' and girls' scores are added together. Mr Graham Robson, deputy headteacher at Newker and good friend of Peter's writes:


"Newker Primary school wins the Peter Robinson Memorial Trophy in the Chester-le-Street District Schools' Cross Country Competition. There could be no better way for me to remember a valued friend and colleague. Peter Robinson spent most of his teaching career working in schools in the Chester-le-Street district, as deputy headteacher at Ouston Junior School and then as headteacher at Woodlea Primary School. It is difficult to sum up in a few words the contribution he made to the pupils he was responsible for and the colleagues who worked with him. He was committed to the teaching profession and had an instant rapport with and earned respect of his pupils, their parents and colleagues. Peter enjoyed the company of people and his cheerful personality and positive outlook quickly became evident when you first met him. There was never a dull moment in his company. He possessed a natural charismatic personality. How many people can make setting up a cross country course on a bitterly cold morning at eight o'clock in the morning on a bitterly cold January morning something to look forward to? Peter Robinson could! He was a firm believer in the policy "Get involved!" and he took an active role in events organised in the Chester-le-Street district - setting up cross country courses and annual district sports, refereeing tag rugby and football matches to name but a few. If the children were provided with a positive and valuable experience, he was there. People like Peter Robinson, who impact greatly on the lives of others, will never be forgotten. He will be greatly missed by his family, friends and colleagues"

Pelton Roseberry - winners of the boys' & girls' trophies in 1979

Pelton Roseberry - boys' winners in 1982

Billy Musk (Cestria) with his 'Top Runner' Award 1989

Cestria Girls Winners 1987

Red Rose Girls Winners 2000

Newker Boys & Girls Winners 2001

St Margarets: Boys & Overall Winners 2018

The start of a cross country race is a fine sight!

Red Rose Boys' Winners: 2008

Newker Girls' & Overall Winners: 2008

Cestria Girls' Winners: 1994

CC 2020.jfif

Winner of the top runner award in 1989 was Alan Baker (Newker) who, as a teacher, has gone on to achieve great success in both cross country and athletics with Pelton Community, St Margaret's and now Rickleton Primary Schools.

There have been many outstanding individual performances over the years but the competition between Lydia Turner (Ouston) and Anna Fawcett (Newker) in 2008 is still talked about among those who witnessed. They were literally neck and neck over the three races, with Anna just pipping Lydia for the top runner award. Lydia continued her running, which she always says began with the district sports, to represent England in later years

Results time at Langley Park 

Ouston teacher, Ruth Dadswell, as well as organising teams from her school to take part in the Chester-le-Street schools' cross countries, as also excelled in her personal running.

In 2019, she ran the Manchester Marathon (achieving a PB of 3.05.08) which qualified her to run as part of the England Masters' team at York in October

She achieved another PB in the York Marathon, finishing as 10th best in the women's section

She has qualified to run again in the 2020 masters' race

Well done, Ruth!

Ruth Dadswell 2020.jpg

At the 2024 event, a professional photographer spent time capturing the event. Some of the images shown here very much capture the real focus and success of the event - the people!

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